Temples of the West

David Best is an American sculptor most notably known for the use of recycled goods, primarily well known for building immense temples out of recycled wood sheets (discarded from making toys and other punch-outs).

AND being the architect behind the annual burning building at a desert festival every week leading up to Labor Day.

But, they are exquisite, far from “toy-like”. Here’s a sketch of this year’s Burning Man‘s temple as presented by Best and his team, The Temple Crew:


Typically, for the Burning Man festivals particularly, they are then burnt to the ground in a spectacle of light and heat. I suppose that’s the entire effigy of the “Burning Man” namesake…

Burning Man - David Best

The gathering’s top two communal events are the wildly cheered torching of the man on Saturday night and the typically hushed, solemn burning of the temple the following night.

Before the temple is set ablaze, the citizens fill it with tributes to people they loved and who have died, and also with prayers, rants, memorial prose and both offerings of and requests for forgiveness.

Every year, the design and construction of the temple is different.

Best and his Temple Crew initially built their first Burning Man Temple in 2000, The Temple of the Mind (revert to video at bottom to see its construction). During construction it became a memorial to a member of Best’s crew whom died in a motorcycle accident just prior to the event, and as such became a sacred space for remembering others.

In 2001, Burning Man helped fund the Temple projects build the much larger Temple of Tears.

Best’s temples have now become a household tradition at Burning Man. This year’s Temple was 100′ tall, with a 50’x50′ interior, 100’x100′ sheltered roof, and an additional 100′ in a walled courtyard. It was a traditionally built David Best temple, but with a significant departure from his usual style – this temple will be hand-built without CNC cut materials. It will be extremely ornate, with a large interior altar and a large chandelier.

This temple was built to represent an ancient time, coated with organic water-based stains, and meant to look as if it were built hundreds of years in the past.

burning-man-2016-The Temple

Oh. Right….Best creates these projects solely with a round-up of volunteers happy to make their labor a gift to the 70,000 or so souls who’ll gather at a city 7 miles square that doesn’t exist today and of which there will be hardly a trace following the deconstruction of Burning Man that begins on Labor Day.

Here are some of the Temples from the last 15 years in and out of Burning Man :

(Derry Temple, 2015)
derry_templeThis temple was built in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Artichoke Trust. Catholic and Protestant workers came together with some of the Temple crew to build a 75′ structure with David Best in his traditional style. It was open to the public on March 14 2015, for one week, for people to write memorials before being burnt. In a place accustomed to sectarian bonfires, the burning of this temple was a bonfire for unification.

(Temple of Grace, 2014)grace_templeThe Temple of Grace was a spiritual and sacred space for memorials, reflection, celebration, and to commemorate life transitions. It was the latest in a long line of temples going back to 2000, which started the tradition of the temple built as a spiritual center for this art festival. It was a special work of art given to the community, and is a spiritual refuge where thousands gather, each to engage with it in his or her own way. The community comes to write their memorials and place tokens of their transitions, and it was burned at the end of the festival in a tradition of releasing them by the immolation of the temple

(Juno Temple, 2012)


This year’s temple was known as ‘The Temple of Juno’. Why the name? The theme for this year’s Burning Man event was ‘Fertility 2.0’. Juno was a Roman goddess who had many roles and epithets; among those that she held were as a fertility deity and overseer of childbirth, a protectress of women and the community, and a preserver of marriages.

(The Detroit Dream Project, 2008)
detroit_dream_sThe Detroit Dream Project was built in the Brightmoor / Old Redford neighborhood of Detroit.

(Temple of Forgiveness, 2007)

Burning Man 2007

(Temple of Hope, 2007)hope_s

(Hayes Green Chapel, 2005)hayes_green_s

The Hayes Green Chapel was a public art project built on the Green at Octavia and Hayes Street in San Francisco, with support from The San Francisco Arts Commission and The Black Rock Arts Foundation

(San Rafael Chapel, 2005)san_rafael_s The San Rafael Chapel was constructed in a neighborhood of San Rafael, CA.

(Temple of Joy, 2002)joy_temple

(Temple of Tears, 2002)

(Temple of the Minds, 2000)
mind_sThe very first and namely the reason for the annual invitation, all started because of this temple.


Here’s a behind the scenes look at how Best and his team create a temple for Burning Man :

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